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In brief

Freedom Tower begins ascent A construction worker ties steel reinforcing bars at the World Trade Center site Wednesday in New York City. The Freedom Tower at the site is scheduled to be completed sometime in 2011.

AP PHOTO
WASHINGTON Bush puts pressure on Iraq

The Bush administration on Wednesday warned of “real consequences” for Iraq if it rejects a newly negotiated security pact.

Without a deal, the United States could be forced to end its military operations.

The White House said Iraqi security forces are incapable of keeping the peace without U.S. troops, raising the specter of reversals in recent security and political gains if the proposed security deal is not approved by the time the current legal basis for U.S. military operations expires Dec. 31.

Baghdad announced earlier this week that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki determined that unspecified changes to the draft accord are required.

The U.S. has 155,000 troops in Iraq.

BEIJING Stricter food laws pressed

China can boost public trust badly shaken by a spate of food safety scandals, including tainted formula that gave thousands of babies painful kidney stones, by enacting stricter laws and replacing its patchwork surveillance system, the U.N. said Wednesday.

The U.N. also recommended other changes, including more funding and training for food inspectors, in a 30-page paper released a day before the central government is to review its draft law on food safety.

The paper follows a scandal over tainted milk powder. In September, authorities announced they had found the industrial chemical melamine, which is used to make plastics and fertilizer, in infant formula.

The deaths of four babies have been linked to the contamination and some 54,000 children have been sickened.

WASHINGTON Better prescreening to start

A long-delayed government program designed to more accurately prescreen the names of airline passengers against terror watch lists is expected to begin early next year.

On Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced the final rule for the program, called Secure Flight, which would validate air travelers’ information so there’s less chance a person could be mistaken for someone else on a watch list.

Misidentification of passengers has been one of the biggest inconveniences in post-Sept. 11 air travel.

BANGKOK, Thailand Thai leader chased out

Thailand’s prime minister was forced to flee one of his own government ministries Wednesday as protesters demanding his resignation taunted him, tossing sandals and plastic bottles at his entourage.

Security officials hustled Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat through a mob of 100-200 demonstrators a day after a Thai court convicted the country’s former leader, Thaksin Shinawatra, of violating a conflict of interest law when he was in office from 2001-2006.

Ousted by a 2006 military coup, Thaksin is reviled by protesters from the People’s Alliance for Democracy, who claim his administration was characterized by massive corruption.

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